EU Proposes Resettlement Plan for 50,000 Refugees

Refugees attempt to cross the Mediterranean sea to reach Greece, a member of the European Union, in 2016. (Wikimedia Commons)

Refugees attempt to cross the Mediterranean sea to reach Greece, a member of the European Union, in 2016. (Wikimedia Commons)

The EU Commission proposed a two-year program on September 27 to resettle 50,000 asylum seekers from northern African nations into Europe. To accompany the new program, the Commission also set aside 500 million euros.

Several EU member nations, particularly those in Eastern Europe, have already expressed their disapproval of the proposal, despite its voluntary nature allowing states to set their own numbers of accepted refugees. Poland and Hungary, after accusing the EU Commission of illegally and unconstitutionally enacting a previous migrant relocation plan, saw the European Court of Justice strike down their legal challenge in early September.

This new proposal came as the two-year migrant relocation plan expired after relocating less than a fifth of the proposed 160,000 asylum seekers. The latter plan was proposed as a solution to the 1.7 million migrants that arrived on European shores since 2014 and to alleviate the burden of dealing with such large numbers of asylum-seekers for nations like Italy and Greece. The recently-expired relocation plan suspended the Dublin II regulations, which required the first nation at which asylum seekers arrived to process their requests. Attempts to relocate asylum seekers from Italy and Greece faced stiff resistance from other member nations, contributing to its ineffectiveness.

The new resettlement proposal, however, aims to admit 50,000 refugees from North Africa and the Horn of Africa, particularly Libya, Egypt, Niger, Sudan, Chad, and Ethiopia. While the relocation proposal aimed to distribute irregular migrants that arrived by boat to Italy and Greece across Europe, the resettlement program aims to permanently integrate refugees that are recognized by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees into EU member states.

One key goal of the Commission is to curtail irregular migration to Europe by decreasing smuggling and providing “real alternatives to taking perilous irregular journeys,” as stated by EU Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos. The selection of African countries was targeted to fulfil this goal. Libya is the main departure point to Europe through irregular means, such as smugglers, and Egypt, Sudan, Chad, and Niger all border Libya.

The Commission’s plan, however, is voluntary and not legally binding, meaning individual states are responsible for deciding on specifics regarding how many refugees they accept for resettlement.

Along with the resettlement proposal, the Commission also proposed initiatives to return rejected asylum seekers to their native countries faster. To help guarantee the cooperation of non-EU nations in accepting their denied asylum seekers, the Commission suggested the creation of a system, limited to cooperative states, in which economic migrants could legally travel to the EU. Calling the return rate of 36 percent “unsatisfactory,” the commission insisted on further steps to ensure their return. Avramopoulos said, “We have to be clear and brutally honest; people who have no right to stay in Europe must be returned.”